Finding Melville’s Whale: The Cabin Table (Chapter 34)

Thanks to everyone who stuck around during our blog vacation. Our adventure into Moby Dick continues with chapter 34 – The Cabin Table. Read along with us and discuss this chapter or the book as a whole in the comments. Visit this page for the complete collection to date: Finding Melville’s Whale.

The Cabin Table

Down went Ahab, to the Captain’s Table
to dine silently among men of rank,
then Starbuck, then Stubb, then Flask at the last.

The poor officer ranked forth among men
who must eat last and finish first, hunger
is his eternal companion.

After the officers finish their meals,
it is time for the harpooners to dine,
the great savages, ranked above the crew.

Not by beef or bread are giants made,
nor are their brutal manners forgotten,
yet the cabin is theirs for the eating.

Pity poor Dough-boy, he must satisfy
their ravenous appetite and abide
the cannibal customs of savage men.

Finding Melville’s Whale: The four Coffins

The Essex being struck by a sperm whale

Nested within the story of Ishmael, Queequeg, Herman Melville, and Moby Dick are four Coffins. The first two are within the story itself – Peter Coffin, the innkeeper who unites Ishmael with Queequeg, and Queequeg’s Coffin, built on premonition of death, that carries Ishmael to safety after the Pequod is destroyed. These two coffins bookend the epic voyage of the Pequod and it’s crew, but their occurrence parallels two other Coffins, and the fate of the whaleship Essex.

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